Something Afoot

 |  September 1, 2011

In many ways, they were like an old lover, providing comfort and support in a way that only long-term, intimate, familiarity can bring. The frayed waistband and unplanned holes just added character and additional ventilation in these warmer climes. But oh no, they weren’t good enough and had to go. My favourite pair of boxer shorts mysteriously disappeared from the laundry basket and were next seen being used to clean the windows.

Mind you, I’d had good wear out of them so couldn’t really complain about their fate. But I did anyway and as you would expect, to no avail. My protests were met with statements such as “no personal pride”, “dress like a tramp” and “I have to look at them” when I pointed out that they were worn on the inside. Still, making things last and getting value for money are important in these double-dip, got-any-gold-we-can-sell, harsh financial times. The Daring household, like many others, has had to tighten its belt over the last couple of years and find ways of doing things more frugally.

For example, gone are the daily lattes; no more expensive bottles of wine (and after the second glass, who cares anyway?); more fans instead of air-conditioning; brand name foods replaced with perfectly acceptable locally made stuff, and so on. I even tried to save petrol last week and cycled to a meeting. Not a good idea as trying to look vaguely professional when drenched in sweat doesn’t work. I daren’t even move my arms for fear of rendering the people on the other side of the table unconscious. Didn’t want the job anyway.

I did put my foot down when the soft, two-ply, luxury toilet paper was replaced with some cheaper, cardboard-like, rough stuff. It didn’t absorb, but rather, just moved it around a bit. Of course, I know one can use the hose that is invariably found in Asian toilets and the rest of the family think they’re great. But since my first attempt many years ago resulted in a stream of soiled water ricocheting off my bottom, around the cubicle and then back over me, I have been fairly circumspect about using them.

On the positive side, being too short to be stylish has meant that I have developed the fashion sense of a halibut. An evening at the Night Bazaar sees me right for shorts and t-shirts for a year at a time and for relatively little money too. I also only have three pairs of shoes; flip-flops, a pair of trainers, and a black shiny pair for weddings, funerals and other formal occasions. They will get replaced every two years or so depending on use. This level of simplicity does not work for the women in my life.

At the last count, there were thirty-six pairs of shoes on the porch. Thirty-three of them are not mine and that doesn’t include the ones that are ‘too good’ to weather the elements and live in bedrooms. So that is 16.5 pairs each for Mrs. D and D2 who now share the same shoe size (although I am not sure how they handle the 0.5). A visit to Airport Plaza invariably adds more to the collection and many seem to be worn just once or twice before they are replaced by something else. I don’t really mind as long as Mrs. D gives the 10 cm stilettos an airing every now and again as everyone must have something that keeps them going when times are hard. And in my case, the heels certainly help with that both figuratively and literally.

Recapturing some of the simple pleasures in life and slowing things down (read more books at home from the cheap book-exchange shops rather than going out as often) also helps but sometimes we forget how lucky we are in Chiang Mai. For example, I was in Singapore two weeks ago with D2. Wonderful city but hugely expensive. A beer was $12 and for a simple Mexican meal of nachos, a burrito and drinks, we spent over $100! We could have eaten for nearly a month here for that. As for rents, we can live for six months in our house for what our friends pay for their condo for one month. Frightening.

So for those of us on a budget (and who isn’t?), we are certainly living in the right place. Everything else is just a state of mind.

Which is just as well as they have just arrived back from shopping…again. Another two pairs have been added to make a total of 38 outside. How on earth can they wear all those? Far too complicated for me.